New York, NY – A privately funded program in New York City is working to help poverty stricken families with a steady flow of income every month. Mothers across neighborhoods such as Washington Heights, Harlem, and Inwood have been receiving $1,000 a month from the program The Bridge Project. This sounds almost good to be true, and mothers like Angeline Matos thought the same thing when she saw the flier in upper Manhattan. “I thought it was a scam,” Angelina Matos told the New York Times.
So what exactly is The Bridge Project? It’s a $16 million dollar project, funded by a venture capitalist couple who are working to measure the effects of regular stipends on low income families. The program started as an experiment to measure the anti-poverty policies behind guaranteed income and is run by the nonprofit group, the Monarch Foundation. Since July over 100 women have joined the program. Much of the money is going towards supplies for raising a baby with added exceptions for life’s challenges.
Matos was able to quit her minimum wage job to start nursing school and take care of her 9-month old daughter. “I would have to keep working while I’m going to school,” said Ms. Matos. The program has helped so many mothers including one who was able to buy a special high chair for her son with cerebral palsy. By April, the program is planning to add 500 more expecting mothers in more neighborhoods including East Harlem, South Bronx, and the Central Bronx.
Right now the families in the program are making an average of $14,500/yr, below the poverty line. Roughly half of the families are Black and the other half are Latino, with 20% of the mothers being undocumented and 70% reported having less than $100 in their savings. For the families in the first phase, the first half receive $500 a month and the second half will receive $1,000 a month for three years. The second phase of families coming in will receive $1,000 a month for 18 months and then $500 a month for another 18 months. There will be a control group of families who receive no money.
The program is working to allow families to take the money and use it based on their needs, rather than putting restrictions on what they can use it for. “You’re talking about giving somebody money and letting them apply it to the highest-need area of life: keeping the heat on, contacting family in Venezuela, taking an Uber to the hospital, getting an unlimited MetroCard,” Megha Agarwal, the foundation’s executive director, told the New York Times.
In order to keep the experiment going, the families will be surveyed. They’ll need to track their economic and housing stability, their children’s developmental progress, as well as their physical and mental health statuses. Right now more than 35 pilot projects for guaranteed-income are underway in 17 states across the country. Over $25 million dollars have been distributed to over 7,000 families according to the Economic Security Project. While $500-$1,000/month in NYC seems like a small amount, it can keep families from hitting bottom and surviving in the economic climate.